Published at 1:05 p.m. March 15:
Dallas County is reporting three new presumptive positive cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in the county to 14, according to a March 15 news release.
The latest cases involve three men: one in his 30s, one in his 50s and one in his 60s, the county reported. Two of the men are hospitalized while the third is self-isolating at a residence. One man is a Coppell resident, one is a Dallas resident, and the third is from out of state. The county reported that one case is related to international travel and one is related to domestic travel. The third is related to travel on a cruise, the county reported.
These cases are considered presumptive positive until confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the county.
Of the 14 presumptive positive cases in Dallas County, three involve residents who do not live in the county, the release stated. Their numbers will not be included in the county's case numbers posted on the Dallas County health department's website, according to the release.
Published at 3:25 p.m. on March 13:
The city of Coppell has declared a local disaster for a public health emergency.
Coppell Mayor Karen Hunt signed the declaration March 13, and it will last through March 20.
The disaster declaration will result in the prohibition of community gatherings of 500 persons or more anywhere within the city of Coppell.
The declaration also comes with a recommendation from the city of Coppell, the office of the Dallas County Judge and the Dallas County Health and Human Services department to cancel or reschedule events with more than 250 people.
Published at 3:11 p.m. on March 13: The city of Richardson announced March 13 that it is postponing, modifying or canceling various municipal events until Thursday, April 30.
Programs and events hosted at the Richardson Civic Center, the public library, the Senior Center, recreation centers and the Eisemann Center have been canceled. While programs have been put on pause, some facilities will remain open to the public. For information on the status of municipal buildings, visit this link.
The city has activated its emergency plans to maintain staffing levels and provide essential services, a March 13 press release stated. It has put into place operational safeguards intended to protect public safety officers from the coronavirus, the release stated. It also continues to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. For more information on Richardson’s response to the coronavirus, visit this link.
Published at 12:30 p.m. on March 13:
Classes at The University of Texas at Dallas will switch to an online format March 30 for the remainder of the spring semester, according to a message from university President Richard C. Benson.
Benson pointed to concerns around the novel coronavirus as the reason for the decision.
“As we have learned in recent days and weeks, the situation caused by COVID-19 (coronavirus) is highly dynamic, and risks to our community can change rapidly,” his statement said.
The university is also extending spring break by one week, which means classes scheduled for March 23-27 are canceled, according to the statement. Faculty and staff will use this time to prepare for a transition to online courses.
There are no reported cases of coronavirus on the UT Dallas campus; however, the university is taking precautions to slow the spread of the virus by implementing social distancing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, social distancing means staying out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others when possible.
“As we face this unprecedented situation, it is incumbent upon all of us to practice good hygiene and social distancing,” Benson said in the statement. “This includes washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, and isolating yourself if you become sick.”
All campus events will also be canceled, postponed or moved to a virtual format, Benson’s statement said. This will help to reduce person-to-person contact, he said.
The university has not yet decided on changes to spring athletic events and is waiting for guidance from the American Southwest Conference, according to the statement.
Student housing will remain open, and UT Dallas plans to keep up its normal business operations indefinitely. This includes research efforts, clinical services, student services and other administrative functions, the statement said.
“The wellbeing of our campus community is my utmost priority,” Benson said in the statement. “We will continually assess potential impacts and will not hesitate to implement whatever additional measures are necessary to protect our students, faculty and staff."
Published at 11:15 a.m. on March 13:
Coppell ISD is closing its schools March 16-20 in light of recent coronavirus concerns.
CISD joins other Dallas County school districts, including Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, in shuttering its doors. This comes after Dallas County declared a state of emergency March 12.
The announcement came as part of a letter from Superintendent Brad Hunt publicized the morning of March 13.
"The closing of our schools is a proactive measure to help prevent the further spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)," Hunt said in the letter. "As such, I highly encourage our community to remain at home during this time to help us in this effort."
Published at 11 p.m. on March 12:
Evidence of community spread has prompted Dallas County to take drastic steps in preventing additional cases of the novel coronavirus.
At an emergency 10 p.m. news conference, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced that five new presumptive positive cases have been identified in Dallas County. This is in addition to the three presumptive positives already announced earlier this week.
The five new patients consist of a woman in her 60s, a woman in her 70s, and three men–one each in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Four of the patients are from Dallas, and one is from Balch Springs. One person has no recent domestic or international travel history, Jenkins said.
Two of the five have been hospitalized, and the other three are in home isolation, Jenkins said.
An emergency declaration order will go into effect at 11 a.m. March 13 that bans public and private community gatherings of 500 people or more. The order will remain in effect until at least March 20 and could be extended beyond that, officials said.
The county is also strongly discouraging those gatherings with 250 people or more, Jenkins said.
“It is imperative the public do their part in following this community gathering order,” he said. “I know Dallas County is up to the challenge.”
Community gatherings include indoor and outdoor events taking place in auditoriums, theaters, stadiums, arenas, meeting halls, conference centers and large cafeterias. Spaces exempted from the order include airports, transit terminals, grocery stores, shopping malls, retail establishments, hospital and medical facilities, Jenkins said.
Prior to these new cases, Dallas County was in containment mode, said Dr. Philip Huang, the county’s Health and Human Services director. Now that there is evidence of community transmission, social distancing and mitigation efforts are needed to slow the spread of the virus, he said.
Social distancing efforts are intended to protect populations at high risk, which include people age 60 or older. The death rate from coronavirus is between 4%-15% for that group, Huang said.
The county is strongly advising against gatherings of 10 people or more for people age 60 and older.
“If it gets into our nursing home and to our older than 60 population, it will be deadly, and we have to do everything we can to keep that from happening,” Jenkins said.
The mitigation efforts are also intended to protect health care workers and to reduce the burden on medical facilities, Huang said.
“This is meant to slow this down so that our health care system isn’t overwhelmed as we’ve seen in other countries and systems,” he said.
A copy of the order will be made available on the Dallas County Health and Human Services website, Jenkins said.
Published at 4:39 p.m. on March 12:
Richardson ISD will require students who travel to high-risk countries over spring break to self-quarantine before returning to school, according to a message from Superintendent Jeannie Stone posted to Youtube on March 11.
Any students traveling to countries deemed high risk for coronavirus are required to stay home for 14 days following their arrival back home, Stone said. High-risk countries currently include China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, according to the CDC. Stone said the district will work with students impacted by self-quarantining in regards to absences.
Students who plan to travel internationally or go on cruises between now and the end of the school year are required to fill out a survey, Stone said. Information collected from the survey will be used by RISD health services for direction and will help keep families informed.
Additionally, RISD has ramped up its sanitation efforts and plans to give schools another thorough cleaning over spring break, Stone said.
Published on March 12:
Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD is canceling all classes and district events from March 16-20.
The district, which was on spring break from March 9-13, made the announcement on its Twitter page the evening of March 12.
CFBISD will also close all offices during the same time, according to the district. More details will be made available to parents, staff and students at the district's website March 13.
Published at 5:20 p.m. on March 11:
Dallas County Health and Human Services announced March 11 it has identified a third presumptive case of the new coronavirus.
The third individual is an Irving resident in their 50s who recently traveled to an event out of state, according to the agency. They are being treated at a Dallas-area hospital.
"The city of Irving is currently monitoring the COVID-19 situation and have been in close contact with State and County officials in regard to the current situation in our area," Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer said in a statement. "We will continue to stay connected with public health officials and are prepared for the care and safety of our residents, businesses and visitors."
The first identified individual was a 77-year-old who frequently travels out of state and is being treated at a Dallas hospital, according to DCHHS. The second is in their 50s and was in close contact with the first identified individual. Dallas County will not release any other identifiable information about the three individuals.
A presumptive positive case means a patient has tested positive at a public health laboratory, but results are pending confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"While we know this case is concerning, it is not unexpected,” DCHHS Director Dr. Philip Huang said in a March 10 news release. "We have been watching the numbers increase across the US and have been preparing for this event. We are working with all local, regional, and statewide health authorities to monitor the situation and update the public."
County officials urged local residents to follow CDC guidelines on reducing the spread of the virus. That includes staying home when you suspect you are sick; covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing with a tissue, and then disposing of the tissue; washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if a washing station is unavailable; and routinely cleaning handles, surfaces and objects.
Published at 12:45 p.m. on March 10:
School districts in Coppell and Irving are working to educate the public on preventative measures to keep the new coronavirus from spreading.
There were no confirmed coronavirus cases in Dallas County as of the publication of this story.
Local school district and city officials are encouraging their constituents to follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance in preventing the spread of the virus. That includes staying home when you suspect you are sick; covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing with a tissue, and then disposing of the tissue; washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if a washing station is unavailable; and routinely cleaning handles, surfaces and objects.
Other than sharing the recommendations from the CDC and Dallas County Health and Human Services division, here are what some local governments are doing to stay ahead of a possible coronavirus outbreak.
Recognizing that people may be traveling abroad over the district's March 9-13 spring break, Coppell ISD is requesting students and staff to stay home for 14 days upon their return home.
That is for countries designated by the CDC as on Level 2 and Level 3 Travel Health Notice, according to the district.
CISD is asking students and staff who plan to travel to China, Iran, Italy, South Korea or Japan over spring break to report those travels to the district.
Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD
CFBISD is undertaking additional measures to disinfect its campuses over the March 9-13 spring break, according to a March 6 announcement.
“Plans to enhance our cleaning and sanitizing measures began in September,” Superintendent John Chapman said in a statement. “Because the health and safety of our students and staff is always our top priority, CFBISD will now expedite these plans and utilize spring break to disinfect district facilities.”
The board of trustees approved at its March meeting the purchase of 28 additional sanitizing machines for each campus, as well as 200 new hand sanitizer stations and and the use of enhanced and environmentally sensitive cleaning products,
Originally published March 9:
As cases of the new coronavirus in Texas are beginning to pop up, Dallas County health officials are working with school districts and city governments to prepare for the possibility of a local outbreak.
The Dallas County Health and Human Services division has the capacity to test for the coronavirus and is offering its space to area health care providers, according to the department. No coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Dallas County as of the publication of this story.
The Dallas County health department will work to isolate possible future cases in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Texas' health services department, according to the agency. That includes asking those who are returning from countries with a Level 3 Travel Health Notice to quarantine themselves for 14 days.
As of March 9, the Level 3 countries included China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.
The Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is one of 11 U.S. airports the Department of Homeland Security identified to screen passengers for the coronavirus. All direct DFW flights to and from China and South Korea have been suspended until April 23-25. Travelers from specific regions and countries are being screened, airport officials said. The airport has also added additional custodial service staff to assist with sanitation efforts, increasing overtime and adding temporary labor to meet these efforts.
Meanwhile, school districts and city governments are working to educate the public on preventive measures to keep the virus from spreading.
Readers can return to this page to follow Community Impact Newspaper's ongoing coverage of the coronavirus.
Miranda Jaimes contributed to this report.